The Sinner's Guide
Ven. Louis of Granada
With Imprimi Potest and Imprimatur


Ch 47. The Vigilance and Care Necessary in the Practice of Virtue

Since the rule of life which we have proposed includes so many counsels and so many virtues, and since our intelligence is incapable of embracing a multitude of things at one time, it will be well to apply ourselves to the practice of one virtue which, in a measure, comprehends the rest, or supplies for all that may be wanting to them. Such is the virtue of continual vigilance in all our words and actions.

An ambassador about to address a king studies not only what he will say, but how he will say it, and strives to regulate his gestures and his whole bearing so that he may present himself to the monarch in the most becoming manner, With more reason a Christian, who is the subject of the King of kings, must watch over himself at all times, whether he speaks or is silent, at prayer or at table, at home or abroad. He must measure all his actions, all his words, by the law of his Divine Master.

We find this virtue of vigilance frequently recommended in the sacred Scriptures. "Keep thyself and thy soul carefully." (Deut. 4:9). "Walk solicitous with thy God." (Mich. 6:8). That is, be careful to avoid everything contrary to His will. The many eyes of the mysterious creatures mentioned in Ezechiel also represent the vigilance with which we must guard our soul. (Cf. Ezech. 1-18).

Besides the many dangers to which we are exposed, the difficulty and delicacy of the work of salvation render this vigilance indispensable, particularly for one who aspires to the perfection of the spiritual life. For to live in union with God, to abide in the flesh and yet to be free from its corruption, and to preserve one's self from the snares of the world "without offense unto the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:10) require not only the assistance of grace but the greatest vigilance over ourselves. Follow in this respect the wise counsel of Seneca: "Always imagine yourself in the presence of one for whom you entertain the greatest respect, and refrain from all that you would not do in His presence." (Epist. 25 ).

A no less salutary practice is to live as if each day were the last of our lives, and the evening were to bring us before the tribunal of God to render an account of all our actions. But the most efficacious means of all is to walk continually in the presence of God, who is everywhere, and to act in all things with obedience due to so great a Master, who is the Witness and the Judge of all our works. Frequently implore the grace to avoid all that would render us unworthy of His divine presence.

Thus the vigilance which we here counsel has two ends: First, to fix the eyes of our soul upon God, and unceasingly to offer Him on the altar of our hearts a sacrifice of adoration, respect, praise, devotion, thanksgiving, and love; secondly, to watch over all our thoughts, words, and actions, that we may in all things follow the guidance of His will. Though this vigilance is not easily acquired, nevertheless we must endeavor to practice it as uninterruptedly as possible. Corporal exercises are no obstacle to it, for with fidelity to the practice of it the heart will always be free to withdraw from them for awhile, and seek its repose in the wounds of Jesus Christ.